Confession: I Learned How To Read In Seminary

With apologies to my mother who taught me to read when I was four or five, and with all due respect to my undergraduate degree in English, I really did learn how to read in seminary.

What I mean is that while at Asbury Seminary, I learned a method of close reading I still use today.

I was immersed in a process of observing what’s going on in a piece of literature before trying to figure what it means.

In short, I learned in seminary that how a piece is written is a large part of what it is saying.

For that learned skill, I have Robert Traina’s classic book Methodical Bible Study to thank.


Little known outside the world of Asbury Seminary, Traina’s work spells out the structural elements vital to any written work: contrast, causation, cruciality, interrogation, recurrence, particularization and much more.

So we learned how to read sections of Scripture by first paying attention to the structural laws at work. By looking at how the author put his words together we were then better able to open up what that author is actually saying.

Twenty-nine years after my first exposure to Methodical Bible Study, I’m still using its principles when I study passages to prepare my messages. Every chapter of every Abingdon book I’ve authored, whether Head Scratchers, The Storm Before The Calm, The Shadow Of A Doubt, Solve, or even one I’ll get to tell you about soon, began with the detailed reading & note taking I learned at the metaphoric feet of Robert Traina.

So check out Methodical Bible Study. Perhaps you can learn how to read without ever going to seminary.